NEW YORK -- Mariano Rivera will likely take the mound Thursday night, his last time ever at Yankee Stadium, feeling empty inside.
The greatest closer of all-time hasn’t pitched in a meaningless game since Sept. 28, 2008, when he recorded a four-out save at Fenway Park.
So, yes, this will be different. A lot different.
After all, Rivera wasn’t four games away from retirement then.
He is now. This really is the end.
“It’s important to say goodbye to the fans, but it doesn’t mean anything,” Rivera said Wednesday night, not long after the New York Yankees had been eliminated from the playoffs.
“I’m not used to pitching for something that doesn’t mean anything. I like to pitch for something that means something, you know? The fans, to me, are special. I’ll be there tomorrow and I’ll be there for the fans. They deserve it.”
Rivera made the playoffs 17 times during his 19-year career. His postseason dominance -- 42 saves, a 0.70 ERA -- speaks for itself.
But Rivera won’t be pitching in October this time around.
“It’s disappointing. Can’t do anything about it now. It’s done,” Rivera said. “It is disappointing. We fought hard the whole year and we fell short.”
Asked how he was feeling, Rivera replied: “I’m OK. I’m sad because we didn’t go where we were supposed to go, but besides that, I’m OK. I’m OK.”
Rivera declined to comment when asked by ESPNNewYork.com whether he wants to play center field before his final season ends.
The feeling of defeat was too fresh. Surely, he does.
It’s really the only thing he hasn’t done.